At the end of my bed sits my sweet three-year-old daughter. She’s softly nestled under her pink blanket while her long arms reach out for affection. Her eyes stare off into space while thoughts swirl around behind them. This room is the place we sit and learn about feelings.
She is advanced in the way she communicates her heart. She expresses her joy and releases her anger all within the four walls of her safe place—my bedroom. And today, after a rough day at school, she has come to my room to sort through her emotions.
This little girl’s body can hardly contain her big heart. Whenever she is surrounded by people, a light starts to shine in her eyes. This light is contagious and reflective, but not everyone accepts her glow. Earlier at school, she had ran up to her classmates to ask for a hug, their arms straightened out separating themselves from her embrace.
“No! Stop!” they shouted.
I saw her inner light start to melt from her body replaced with the first sign of callouses.
“But I just wanted a hug…”
This scene tugs at my heart as I sit in conflict. One part of me had wanted to approach the friends who rejected her while my head told me it wasn’t my place. This is just the beginning–an introduction of the world’s rejection.
We sit on my bed and talk about what she felt during this moment.
“Mommy, I felt sadness.”
Suddenly the scene begins to change revealing a picture of me sitting in my daughter’s place; my mother is at the head of the bed and there are tears in my own eyes.
My mom’s bedroom was a safe haven for me. It was a place where I could express myself fully. I shared my anxiety, celebrations, and heartbreaks under the dim lights and cathedral ceilings. Sometimes I would sit staring at the elliptical in the corner of the room that held piles of laundry waiting to be ironed. I was afraid to unlock my eyes from the clutter until I could free myself from my own.
As much as I cherished time spent with my mother, we rarely saw eye to eye. I saw black when she saw white. She often jokes saying she would have been better off telling me the opposite of what she wanted me to do growing up. I have always admired the woman, wife, and mother she was, even though we saw life differently.
But when I would sit on her bed after days I felt unworthy or unlovable, she spoke truth into my life paired with love and grace, and we always found common ground.
Our most common discussions on the corner of her bed centered around strength. My mom is a spokesperson for this topic and made it her goal to teach her children how to stand up for what’s right and overcome difficult circumstances.
She would often say, “We have to fight for things. They don’t come easily.”
When I was the topic of the latest rumors and gossip, she listened and offered comforting advice. She gave examples of strength and encouraged me to approach those who challenged my integrity.
“People will say these things if you let them.”
In this same room, she held me after an engagement was broken. I cried, and she told me the type of man I should allow to pursue me without making me feel ashamed for such a devastating loss.
“You must be strong enough to let go. Let someone take care of you for once.”
She was there during anxious moments as well. Several evenings were spent reading and memorizing lines while I begged for her patience and time. She would turn on her bedside lamp that sat catty corner from her outdated alarm clock, open up the worn script, and encourage me to follow my dreams. I would sigh and doubt my abilities to perform, and she offered critiques paralleled with praise that kept me going.
“You have the talent. You just have to keep working hard.”
I always left her bedroom feeling a bit lighter than when I entered. And I cherished our time in my safe place.
The past starts to fade away and I find myself again facing my daughter during her first heartbreak.
I pull from what I know about strength.
“Evelyn, you are brave.”
I tell her whenever a friend doesn’t want to hug, she can say, “That’s okay, my mommy will hug me!”
She smiles, and a little light comes back to the surface. She knows that being brave requires strength. Her three-year-old mind sees this strength differently than she will years from now, but she is still able to articulate truth: “I’m strong.”
In a world focused on the beauty of women, I follow in my mother’s footsteps and focus on the heart. A heart that stands up for what’s right, works hard, and overcomes.
I know that I may not always have the answers and can’t forever protect my daughter’s innocence. But what I can do is offer this room as a sanctuary—a place she will cherish. A room she will come raw with emotion and leave with a force of strength.
Published by The Good Mother Project